Suck it Up

That’s what I had to tell myself recently, “Just suck it up and do it, Erin.”

I have this great idea for my third book and have been outlining it, building out characters and motivations. But I keep stalling. Part of the reason is because it deals with a heavy topic that we as women, all struggle with, but also because I’m trying to weave this theme through four characters’ lives.

Has anyone ever taken a class at The Attic in Portland, OR? I took a class with the fabulous Author Whitney Otto and it really jump started the seriousness of my writing. I happened to peruse an Attic newsletter and there’s a new class on character building with David Ciminello.

I found myself going back to the website to read the description, over and over again. It’s amazing how many excuses we’ll tell ourselves: Is this something I can commit to weekly for five weeks? What about the kids? But I won’t get home till 10:30 PM…

But at the end of the day, I need this. I just had to suck it up and sign up. So starting Tuesday, May 8th, you’ll find me at The Attic.

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The Diagnosis

It’s amazing how much we try to control in life so we can achieve our dreams, like a career, music, art, or building up our family’s strengths. We are surrounded by distractions, but there is pure satisfaction from something going as planned, isn’t there? Seeing results for your hard work.

By nature, I’m type A and a really hard worker but also a deep thinker/dreamer. It’s important to me that people can count on me. Knowing that I can accomplish or help someone else, a shared goal or a personal dream is what makes my heart flutter.

So all of these things are also sometimes a negative, because life is rarely on track. I’m okay with the unexpected change of plan. Working in public relations, crises and communications requires you to be able to handle the chaos. But I wasn’t ready for what life had in store for me.

I had to learn the hard way that this wasn’t really my plan all along.

Six years ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). This rocked my world. I grieved for my children and possibly not having the mother they so deserved. The tears continued to fall when I realized I might not be the woman I dreamed. My throat would close at the utter, complete, loss of control in my life. I basically mourned my life as I knew it. But, I’d be dammed if I let anyone feel sorry for me (a curse of the independent people out there).

My husband said I only had two days to cry. Those words were harsh, but I think he was equally confused and worried this would overtake me. Maybe in some way he feared that the person he loved so much would be lost forever. I was deeply scared too; the kind that makes your body shake. This was unchartered territory.

But I had to find a way forward, and to be honest, it took me a few years. I didn’t like the idea of being someone scared of the future. I had made some diet and supplement changes and after some time, reluctantly got on medication. I was extremely lucky, I only had some numbness and otherwise have not had any physical issues. It was the emotional ones that were really pushing on my heart, the future, and who I would be tomorrow. I had find a way to uncover my own peace and strength with this chronic, unpredictable diagnosis. I tried ignoring it, but that’s the funny thing about that strategy…it creeps around in all the places that matter.

Eventually I spoke with a therapist and started letting more friends and family know. I went to a few MS meetings and they scared the hell out of me and I vowed to never go back. [I have gone to a “People with MS for 40ish and Under Happy Hour” meeting a few times that were good…these things do actually exist.]

There’s still work to do. I still have to tell my kids about MS. I thought I might last summer but those that know my older daughter and her obsession with death thought she might think I was going to die. But as of today, I have been in remission for four years (!!) and am living for today, tomorrow and every day after. Remission is when you have no symptoms of the disease (via annual MRI scans) and I’ll take it…day by day, year by year as it comes.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how I can help others, maybe find peace with this total change in life. I’ve done such a disservice by trying to solve this myself instead of looking to others. Maybe I can save someone else the heartache. Let them know there is another side and that it is pretty amazing, just a slightly different story.

Here’s to finding peace with life’s limitations, strength in and gratitude for what you do have, and living every moment as though it matters.

Ps, I am completely open to talking about MS if you want to ask me casually or have a friend who needs help. Anytime.

xo

 

“I hat mi self”

This is my seven-year-old daughter. Her version of I Hate Myself.

Do you hear that sound? The banging and vibration? That was my heart. My throat closed up in sadness because my very young, sweet girl was feeling something so deep.

We all know that it’s tough to be a girl and grow up with social pressures, fit in and learn confidence. Add social media here soon. The sad truth is, we exchange these feelings of inadequacies for other things as women…that we’re not doing enough, could be doing more, hence the be in 20 places at once attempt (nearly daily). It’s exhausting. We need to stop being our own worst critic and build each other up.

And we need to stop it where it’s starting, with our little ones. I just had no idea it’d be so early.

After I got over the sadness and fear of what this would mean if she were older with such high suicide rates, we talked. We’ve been talking every night about this in different ways since then.

First of all, I sympathized with this deep, sadness. We’ve all been there (but we mostly remember that when we were older). She told me, “I just feel so alone sometimes. Like I don’t belong.” [Insert more tears. But I did wait until I was away from her for that.]

I let her in on the secret: EVERY girl and woman has these feelings. She is not alone in feeling this. And we talked about how to change the narrative in her mind. It’s too young to talk about confidence, or rather a little confusing, I tried. This is something that will need to develop with time and example. So we talked about what we’re thankful for. Every day since, we’ve highlighted the things that were funny or fun, and anything that bothered her. Something so little like an old friend has new friends on the playground, that’s a big deal. But it doesn’t mean that they are not friends anymore. She’s having issues with math (she’s in Spanish so can you imagine doing math is Spanish as well..) so we’re getting her help there so she can start to enjoy it again.

When I step back and look at this situation, I’m am astonished that she is able to vocalize these feelings so succinctly at such a young age. These are themes that adults even have trouble saying so definitively. There’s one thing for sure,  I wish someone would’ve told me about all these secrets and struggles that girls and women face.

But now she knows that these thoughts are a feeling that are so common, but they don’t belong to her. And most importantly, it’s not the truth. She doesn’t need to hold onto them and harbor that sadness, alone anymore.

Stop…Silence

The rain was pouring (shocker, it’s Portland). But then the force and heaviness of the drops hit even harder, making me flinch as it pelted my sunroof. I cursed my windshield wipers to catch up; this was their time to shine. On my drive downtown, first, I must a cross through Terwilliger Boulevard, bobbing and weaving through the sideline of trees hugging both sides of the road. They shake their branches overhead, forming an arch over the road, taunting all drivers with the dangers of the forest.

The car in front of me was slow. (They’re always slow because they probably learned to drive in Portland…) Slowby turned off and the open road lay ahead. The splash of warnings hitting the windshield was not enough to make me need for reduced speed. Swooping in and out, I hugged the curves and pushed for more.

But then a young deer sauntered in front of my car. Apparently it was her time to enter this part of the story, center stage.

In the middle of a busy and crazy world and a hectic day, the deer taunted me to slow down. But I needed to be downtown for a 12 PM meeting.

She walked off to the side of the road and a car in the opposing direction stopped as well. I swear we smiled at each other and turned back to watch the deer. The rain didn’t seem to hit her. I kind of wanted to see for myself how pillowy soft her untouched fur was in that moment.

The car and I were afraid to move. The deer walked off to the side and kept her one eye on me. She wasn’t sure about me. And I’m wasn’t so sure about her either. So we froze. Silence. And the chaos was still.

She walked away with a theatrically slow step, and I started a soft roll forward. She took a step back toward me so I immediately slowed to a stop. And again our eyes met.

With a quick jerk, she was gone. Her work was done there. Without looking back, she started slotting, running off perpendicularly into the forest.

I like her style.

It sure is beautiful for those few precious minutes, even when you’re forced to slow down.

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I Am the Highway

Hearing the news about Chris Cornell’s passing today took my breath away. I lived my teen years in the ’90s as thoroughly as possible. Chris Cornell’s raw, gripping and unique voice was part of the many great experiences I had throughout my high school years, along with other alt greats of the time, including Pearl Jam.

His voice was youth, passion, energy, love, and hate: all those things you feel so deeply in high school as you’re trying to navigate yourself around the idea of living in the moment and becoming an adult.

When I heard that Chris had passed, my heart ached and I immediately wanted to reach out and hug my high school best friends. Because his voice was all of us, with the promise of tomorrow with each other by our sides.

It made me sad to realize that many of the bands that took over the radio in Chicago while growing up have lost their lead singers due to death: Alice in Chains, Nirvana, STP, Sublime, and Blind Melon.

I leave you with one of my favorite songs from Chris from Audioslave. It feels fitting.

“I Am The Highway”
Audioslave

Pearls and swine bereft of me.
Long and weary my road has been.
I was lost in the cities, alone in the hills.
No sorrow or pity for leaving, I feel.

I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky.

Friends and liars don’t wait for me,
‘Cause I’ll get on all by myself.
I put millions of miles under my heels;
And still too close to you I feel.

I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky.
I am not your blowing wind, I am the lightning.
I am not your autumn moon, I am the night… night.

I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway.
I am not your carpet ride, I am the sky.
I am not your blowing wind, I am the lightning.
I am not your autumn moon, I am night… night… night.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lyrics per AZLyrics

 

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Today is Opposite Day

It’s funny how we decide to label ourselves. For the past decade, I’ve called myself a non runner.

But the truth is I HATE RUNNING. It just doesn’t agree with me, my knees, my body, etc.

So for years, I’ve taken up yoga, spinning and other ways to sweat and stay healthy, but I always thought how nice it would be to just go for a run and clear your head.

But that’s not who I am, I tell myself. I need a class for motivation. I need someone to tell me what to do, otherwise I won’t do it.

The thing is, when I start running, my legs itch, tingle and drive me crazy. Does that happen to anyone? It only happens when I run. I was suckered into a half marathon once and that seemed to go away but then my knee cap seemed to wither away with it so I figured that was a sign.

But today, I am a few months out from going on a vacation and it’s time to burn some calories. I double checked my 30 day free gym pass and thought…it’s time.

So I did it. I went to the gym. And that ugly treadmill just stared at me. There weren’t any classes going on, it was just me and the treadmill.

So I ran, without issue, for 25 minutes.

THAT’S HUGE (for me). I could almost hear the Rocky fight song in my head as I stepped off because today, I have defeated whatever barriers stood in the way.

It got me thinking, what else is holding me back?

Click here to hear your fight song: What does Rocky tell you?

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Photo courtesy of NIKE, Inc.

Life is Sweet, Make it Sweeter

I wanted to say, life is short. Sometimes too short. We never know how long we have on earth and sometimes we’re so sucked into the day-to-day ramblings, that we forget to take a pause, or a time out (as my daughter would say, though her time outs are a little different…).

A neighbor that I met through a writing event last summer was literally blogging  less than a month ago about being thankful, and an hour later, she and her husband were hit by a car while crossing the street.

My daughters and I just so happened to be driving by, what had to be moments after the accident, and saw a fire truck and ambulances. Not much happens in our smaller town that sits adjacent to Portland, so traffic slowed. My girls were peppering me with questions, “what happened? was it a person? will they be okay?”

I could see EMT crouching over someone in the middle of the road/cross walk and all I could think was that hopefully someone just felt faint, nothing more. As we drove on, I told my girls to say a little prayer that they’re okay, and we went on about our evening.

Last weekend, I opened the newspaper and my neighbor is on the front page, telling her story about how an elderly man hit her and her husband with his car, and by the grace of God, they survived.

The feelings are overwhelming…and I couldn’t believe we drove right past her. It seems like we should’ve been able to do something to help. She and her husband have a long recovery ahead of them, but she gets to spend more time with her family and friends.

She will no doubt appreciate life differently. It shouldn’t take something horrific to make the rest of us stop, take a moment and hug those close. Maybe smell the flowers.

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